Govt asks social media firms to remove all content that justify Udaipur killing

THE MINISTRY of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has directed all social media companies to “proactively and immediately” remove all content that encourages, glorifies or justifies the recent murder in Udaipur, in order to prevent “any incitement and disruption of public order and to restore public peace and harmony”.

In a missive sent to social media platforms, the ministry said that apart from the videos of the murder that were uploaded online, several instances have come to its notice where social media handles glorified or justified the killing. The MeitY said social media companies should remove such content as part of their obligation of being intermediaries.

“Through this notice, you are directed to forthwith ensure that as part of your obligation of due diligence, safety and trust, you proactively and immediately remove any and all content (either in the form of a text message, audio, video, photo or any other form) that seem to encourage/glorify/justify this murder and killing with a view to prevent any incitement and disruption of public order and to restore public peace and harmony,” the ministry said in its notice to social media companies.

The notice, which was sent on Wednesday, was made public on Friday.

The MeitY’s notice comes days after Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor in Udaipur, was hacked to death by two men, Mohammad Riyaz and Ghouse Mohammad, for allegedly sharing remarks made by BJP’s Nupur Sharma on the Prophet. The two uploaded a video of the murder online and in a separate video boasted about the “beheading” — and issued death threats to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharma.

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In response to queries by The Indian Express, a spokesperson for Facebook and Instagram parent Meta said, “We have designated the incident as violating and are removing any content associated with it as per our community standards.”

It is learnt that when Meta marks an event as “violating”, it typically means that it will remove any account belonging to the perpetrators, or content that praises, supports or represents the attack and the identified perpetrators.

Twitter and Koo did not respond to an immediate request for comment on whether they have complied with the government’s missive.

Social media companies have legal immunity from third party content hosted on their platform by virtue of being classified as ‘intermediaries’. This legal immunity is conditional and subject to the companies complying with certain due diligence requirements which includes taking down content flagged by the government under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. However, the MeitY’s notice to take down the content in question is not issued under Section 69(A) of the IT Act.

“This is a unilateral advisory issued by the ministry because the content related to the killing is extremely disturbing and provocative. The volume of content that glorifies or justifies the murder can be large due to which issuing take-down orders under Section 69(A) would take some time, so the ministry issued this notice to social media companies because this type of content should not be allowed to be on their platforms,” a government official said.

To be sure, while the rules that govern Section 69(A) of the IT Act state that all blocking orders have to be reviewed by an empowered committee, they also allow for an exemption in cases of emergency — meaning that a designated officer of the government can issue an interim take-down notice in emergency cases where a delay may not be acceptable.

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